Ask anyone in the entertainment industry who works on huge projects and they will confirm that an essential part of their success and longevity comes via working on smaller projects. From stand-up comedians to musicians to actors and beyond, smaller and more intimate work environments are a proving ground for new ideas while simultaneously allowing an artist to “stretch” in ways that are not yet ready for the public en masse.
For Bob Yong this is a familiar concept. While Yong has worked as a previs shot creator on globally massive hit films like Spider-Man Homecoming (WW Gross of nearly 1 Billion Dollars), Pacific Rim: Uprising (WW Gross of more than $290,000,000), and others, he’s adamant that interspersing these projects with his work on smaller indie films is critical to challenging himself and keeping his skill at peak performance.
The Controller is an animated film that appeals to anyone who is an avid fan of video games. It’s the tale of a mother who gets trapped inside her son’s video game and must listen to her offspring’s insight and commands (via the controller) to escape. Bob collaborated with two other Southeast Asian filmmakers to create this animated film: Kang Yung Ho (known for his work on Marvels’ Ant-Man & the Wasp) and 3D Generalist at Gradient Effects artist Lan Le.
The film is evidence that the talent of artist like these three is the key ingredient for films produced by major studios. The Controller is as visually polished as anything made by the major studios while also possessing a playful uniqueness that has made it such a fan favorite.
VR is a burgeoning format for filmmakers and audiences. Yong delved into this arena with his self-produced My Home of Memories. Through the use of VR, the participant finds themselves interacting with “snapshot” memories/moments from Bob’s childhood. His intention was to immerse viewers within his own memories within a space that can be digitally explored. Yong confirms that he feels the importance of exploring new formats and challenging his own creativity in the creation of films like this that differ vastly from the multi-million dollar earning films he has been a part of.
Bob’s contention is that VR allows a heightened emotional conduit between the creator and audience as he states, “The process of creating this in VR made it so much more personal. I could feel my emotions associated with my memories as I painted them out, transporting myself back to my own childhood in that space, knowing that my viewers had the luxury of experiencing that point of view too.
To me, VR possesses an immense potential to establish emotional connections to what you see since nearly all of your senses are engaged in the experience. You can’t help but involve yourself in what you see as opposed to having the option to detach yourself when watching a film on a flat screen. An important point to note is that these scenes were created in VR and not from sitting in front of a computer.”
Bob recently worked as a character animator with director Molly Murphy on the 2020 film A Hole, a dark comedy about the end of the world. The preservation of the human race in this story is provided via an “Escape Lottery” from wealthy entrepreneur Rob Bilford who finds himself at odds with a female surfer named Rana Ralorina. Yong’s work is a hybrid of more traditional 2D animation with motion capture data captured at the Robert Zemeckis Center for digital arts.
A Hole is yet another example of Bob Yong seeking productions that force him out of a normal yet highly successful routine. The term professional certainly can be applied to his work by simply considering the well-known and financially successful feature films he has lent his skill towards creating. However, Bob’s commitment to testing his own abilities with films which demand he find new approaches hints that “artist” is the most appropriate title for this Malaysian talent who has found a home in Hollywood.
Writer: Arlen Gann